Gardens play an important part in Scripture. The first garden, the Garden of Eden, is where the history of humanity begins. “Then the LORD God planted a garden in Eden in the east, and there he placed the man he had made. The LORD God made all sorts of trees grow up from the ground – trees that were beautiful and that produced delicious fruit. In the middle of the garden he placed the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (Genesis 2:8-9 NLT).
The Garden of Eden was the place where Adam and Eve met with God – the place where their every need was supplied. But it was also a place of treachery and betrayal.
"The serpent told the Woman, "You won't die. God knows that the moment you eat from that tree, you'll see what's really going on. You'll be just like God, knowing everything, ranging all the say from good to evil"" (Genesis 3:4-5 MSG).
In the Garden of Eden, the pair listened to the lies of Satan and transferred their allegiance from God to the devil. In the Garden of Eden, paradise was lost.
Then there was the Garden of Gethsemane – the garden where Jesus often prayed. But it became a place of betrayal and suffering. In the Garden of Gethsemane, Judas betrayed Jesus. In the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus suffered. “Then Jesus went with them to a garden called Gethsemane and told his disciples, “Stay here while I go over there and pray.” Taking along Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, he plunged into an agonizing sorrow. Then he said, “This sorrow is crushing my life out. Stay here and keep vigil with me” (Matthew 26:36-38 MSG).
John 19:41 (GNT) says, “There was a garden in the place where Jesus had been put to death, and in it there was a new tomb where no one had ever been buried.” At one end, Golgotha, the place of death and crucifixion. At the other, the place of resurrection and life.
“After she (Mary Magdalene) said this, she turned away and saw Jesus standing there. But she didn’t recognize him. Jesus spoke to her, “Woman, why do you weep? Who are you looking for?”
She, thinking that he was the gardener, said, “Sir, if you took him, tell me where you put him so I can care for him.”
Jesus said, “Mary.”
Turning to face him, she said in Hebrew, “Rabboni!” meaning “Teacher!” (John 20:14-16 MSG).
Jesus was alive! The place of death had become a place of Victory.
And lastly, there is a heavenly garden. “Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, flowing with water clear as crystal, continuously pouring out from the throne of God and of the Lamb. The river was flowing in the middle of the street of the city, and on either side of the river was the Tree of Life, with its twelve kinds of ripe fruit according to each month of the year. The leaves of the Tree of Life are for the healing of the nations” (Revelation 22:1-2 TPT).
In the first garden, connection with God was lost. In the second, betrayal and suffering took place. In the third, hope was found in the resurrection of Jesus. Through Him, our connection with God was renewed.
And in the last garden, Eden has been restored. “And every curse will be broken and no longer exist, for the throne of God and of the Lamb will be there in the city. His loving servants will serve him; they will always see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. Night will be no more” (Revelation 22:3-5 TPT).
God is present in every garden. Dear friend, what garden are you in right now? Have you lost connection with God? Are you wandering in a wilderness, apart from Him? Come to the garden of victory, hope, and resurrection. Receive Jesus as your Saviour and Redeemer. He will never disappoint you. And when you die, you will live eternally in the special place God has prepared for those who love Him. A place where there is no curse, no night, and the river of the water of life flows abundantly. Come now.
Bulldogs are known for their aggressive behaviour. Their grip is tenacious and they are persistent and determined. If a bulldog gets something of yours in its mouth, don’t plan on getting it back.
When it comes to the promises of God in His Word, we need to be just as tenacious. We need to have bulldog faith that will not let go. Galatians 3:13 says, “Christ paid the price to free us from the curse that God's laws bring by becoming cursed instead of us. Scripture says, "Everyone who is hung on a tree is cursed."
Satan knows we’ve been delivered from the curse, but he’s going to challenge us on it. He knows that by faith we can have everything Jesus died and rose again to provide for us. So Satan’s plan is to wear down our faith, through continual pressure, disappointment, and discouragement. He knows if he can get us off our faith, he can steal from us what is rightfully ours in Jesus.
THEREFORE, be like a bulldog in your faith. Be aggressive. “The kingdom of heaven has been forcefully advancing, and forceful men lay hold of it” (Matthew 11:12 NIV-84). Faith is always advancing, persistent, determined, and confident. It does not retreat or move backward. “If any man draw back, my soul shall have no pleasure in him” (Hebrews 10:38-39 KJV). When we draw back, we are pulling away from the blessings God has for us.
Like the bulldog, we need to bite down on the Word of God and not let go. We must continually speak it and keep it in front of our eyes, going into our ears – and to call things that are not as though they were. “’...I have made you a father of many nations’” in the presence of Him whom he believed—God, who gives life to the dead and calls those things which do not exist as though they did...” (Romans 4:17 NKJV).
Bulldog faith is fully persuaded that what God has promised, He will fulfill. Abraham “...drew strength from his faith, and while giving the glory to God, remained absolutely convinced that God was able to implement his own promise” (Romans 4:12, Phillips). Being fully persuaded is not hoping or wishing. Fully persuaded means to be completely convinced beyond the shadow of a doubt that what God has said will come to pass. It means believing God’s Word instead of the circumstances around us.
Lastly, bulldog faith takes possession of what God has promised. Joshua asked the Israelites, “How long are you going to sit around on your hands, putting off taking possession of the land that God…has given you?” –Joshua 18:3 (MSG).
The Word of God brings things from the spirit realm into the natural realm. In Matthew 8:8, the centurion said to Jesus, “Speak the word only, and my servant will be healed” (KJV). In essence, he told Jesus that the Word of the Son of God was the only evidence he needed. Bulldog faith is not afraid to put a demand on the covenant promises of God.
So even though the bulldog isn’t the handsomest of animals, be one when it comes to your faith. Bite down on the Word of God AND DON’T LET GO.
“Forever, O Lord, Your word is settled in heaven [standing firm and unchangeable]” Psalm 119:89 AMP.
“In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. And God said, Let there be light: and there was light” Genesis 1:1-3.
From the above verses in Genesis, we see that the Spirit of God was moving on the face of the waters before God spoke, but nothing happened until God said. When God released His words of faith, creation happened. Everything in this material world is the result of the Word of God.
And Jesus holds the universe together by the word of His power. “He is the sole expression of the glory of God [the Light-being, the out-raying or radiance of the divine], and He is the perfect imprint and very image of [God’s] nature,upholding and maintaining and guiding and propelling the universe by His mighty word of power” (Hebrews 1:3 AMPC) .
God’s Word is eternal, unchangeable, forever settled in heaven. The material universe, what we see, hear, touch, taste, and smell is temporal. It can change and it does change. When you apply the unchangeable to the changeable, it is obvious which one will yield – the changeable.
When we take the unchangeable Word of God and apply it in faith to the temporal world, the temporal world must conform to the Word of God. Jesus demonstrated this principle while He lived on earth. When he spoke, demons fled, diseases were healed, the dead were brought to life (“And when he thus had spoken, he cried with a loud voice, Lazarus, come forth. And he that was dead came forth...” John 11:43 KJV), food multiplied, and winds and storms ceased.
Jesus said He did what His Father told Him to do.
“I will not say much more to you, for the prince of this world is coming. He has no hold over me, but he comes so that the world may learn that I love the Father and do exactly what my Father has commanded me” (John 14:30-31 NIV).
By the power of God’s Word, Jesus lived and ministered on this death filled planet totally free from all its bondages. Jesus desires us, as born-again believers, to speak His Word in faith, and expect it to change the negative circumstances around us through the power of His unchangeable Word.
Our words have power and we need to be careful how we use them. The following ten Scripture verses speak about our words:
And lastly, Satan can steal from us with our words.
“But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord” (James 1:6-7 ESV).
From the above verse, we see we have the choice to waiver or to receive. We can’t do both at the same time. One of Satan’s tactics is to get us to doubt and waiver. We can either give in to the doubting thoughts and give place to the devil (Ephesians 4:27) or we can stand on the veracity of God’s Word. We are the ones who decide if we will allow Satan to steal God’s promises from us. Remember, Satan’s only has one plan – to kill, steal, and destroy (John 10:10).
We need to be like God, Who calls the things that are not, as though they were. “As it is written: I have appointed you to be the father of many nations. So Abraham is our father in the eyes of God in whom he had faith, the God who gives life to the dead and calls things that don’t exist into existence” (Romans 4:17 CEB).
Be assured, born-again friend, God’s unchangeable Word, spoken and acted on in faith, will release the power of God and change the circumstances you face.
In our Sunday evening Bible studies, we are continuing to examine the Book of Joshua. Last night, we looked at the cities of refuge. I’d never thought much about them before, but as I prepared for the study, the Lord spoke to my heart.
What were the cities of refuge? We find the answer in Joshua 20.
"Then the Lord said to Joshua: “Tell the Israelites to designate the cities of refuge, as I instructed you through Moses, so that anyone who kills a person accidentally and unintentionally may flee there and find protection from the avenger of blood. When they flee to one of these cities, they are to stand in the entrance of the city gate and state their case before the elders of that city. Then the elders are to admit the fugitive into their city and provide a place to live among them...” (Joshua 20:1-4, NIV).
During the time of Joshua, Israel lived under the law of ‘an eye for an eye’ and ‘a tooth for a tooth’. If you murdered someone, you were put to death. Killing an innocent person polluted the land because humans are made in the image of God. “If anyone takes a human life, that person’s life will also be taken by human hands. For God made human beings in his own image” (Genesis 9:6 NLT).
Numbers 35:33 NLT says, “This will ensure that the land where you live will not be polluted, for murder pollutes the land. And no sacrifice except the execution of the murderer can purify the land from murder.”
However, even if you accidentally killed someone, the slayer was to be killed to cleanse the land from the pollution of innocent blood. The closest relative of the person killed could come after you for your life. That person was called ‘the avenger of blood’.
When someone accidentally killed someone, they could flee to one of the cities of refuge. God designated six cities – Kedesh, Golan, Ramoth, Shechem, Bezer, and Hebron as cities of refuge. Some of the cities were in the north, some in the south. Three cities were situated on each side of the Jordan River.
In a city of refuge, the slayer would find welcome and safety until his trial and could work and make a living. The cities were administered by the Levites, from the tribe of Levi. Some of the Levites were priests, who performed the daily rites in the Tabernacle. Others cared for the Tabernacle and all its furnishings, as well as being responsible for the administrative work. Later, they were involved in interpreting the law and were teachers.
We see from the passage in Joshua 20 that God initiated the cities of refuge. He also made the way clear for someone to reach one of them. The roads to each one were to be kept free of all obstructions and in good repair. Bridges were built where needed so the slayer didn’t have to go down into a ravine but could go straight across.
In addition, at every crossroad, there were signs which read, “Refuge! Refuge!” and pointed in the direction of the city. The signs had to be large enough so that the slayer could read them as he fled.
Joshua 20:9 (NLT) says, “These cities were set apart for all the Israelites as well as the foreigners living among them...” They were available to all, young, old, free, slave, male, female, Jew, Gentile.
I’m sure you’re already thinking about the similarities between the cities of refuge and the great salvation God has provided for us. As stated previously, God initiated the cities of refuge. From the time of Adam and Eve’s disobedience and rebellion against God in the Garden of Eden, God was the One to institute the way to refuge and salvation through His Son, Jesus.
The cities were available to everyone. John 3:16 (VOICE) is a whoever verse. “For God expressed His love for the world in this way: He gave His only Son so that whoever believes in Him will not face everlasting destruction, but will have everlasting life” (italics mine).
It wasn’t difficult to find the cities. God gave instructions that the path to each one be clear. And likewise, God is not far from any of us. “From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands. God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us” (Acts 17:26-27 NIV).
Joshua 20:6 (NIV) says, “They are to stay in that city until they have stood trial before the assembly and until the death of the high priest who is serving at that time. Then they may go back to their own home in the town from which they fled.”
I read that the Talmud, which contains the teachings and commentaries on the Torah (the first five books of the Old Testament), argues that the death of the high priest formed an atonement for the slayer’s mistake so they could go free.
Jesus is our great High Priest.
“We who have run for our very lives to God have every reason to grab the promised hope with both hands and never let go. It’s an unbreakable spiritual lifeline, reaching past all appearances right to the very presence of God where Jesus, running on ahead of us, has taken up his permanent post as high priest for us, in the order of Melchizedek” (Hebrews 6:18-29 MSG).
Praise God that in the Old Testament, over and over, He gave us glimpses of what was to come in the New. Praise Him for the great salvation He provided for us in Jesus. The only thing that can stop us from receiving refuge and salvation in Him is our will. Come to Him today, whatever your need. His arms are outstretched and He’s waiting for YOU.
Recently, I learned something new about the parable of the prodigal son I’d like to share with you. I hope it will bless you as it did me.
You more than likely know the story. The younger son of a man asks his father for his share of the estate before the father dies, basically wishing the father dead so he can receive an early inheritance. The father agrees and divides his wealth between his two sons. The younger son went off, willful and full of pride, to a far land and squandered the money on wild living. When a famine swept over the country, the Scripture says, “...he began to starve” (Luke 15:14 NLT).
Somehow, he managed to hire himself out to a local farmer who sent him out to feed his pigs (a huge no-no for a good Jewish boy). The young man was so hungry, even the food he fed the pigs looked good to him.
Finally, he came to his senses, realized his father’s servants had more than enough food to eat, and decided to go home. On his way, he thought about what he was going to say to his father. “I will go home to my father and say, ‘Father, I have sinned against both heaven and you, and am no longer worthy of being called your son. Please take me on as a hired servant’”(Luke 15:18-19 NLT).
In ancient Judaism, there was a ceremony called Kezazah. It cut off any Jew who lost the Jewish family inheritance to a Gentile. It took place when someone left home, rejected the principles of the community, and lost all their possessions to a non-Jew.
During the ceremony, the villagers broke pottery at the wayward person’s feet, symbolizing they were no longer in fellowship with the returning person –all relations were broken. The goal was to shame the individual and make them feel completely empty. The ceremony took place outside the village before the person could make their way home.
While on his way back to his father, the prodigal son thought the only way he could avoid the Kezazah - the shaming, estrangement, and cutting of all ties, was to earn back every penny of the inheritance he lost. Thus, the statement in Luke 15:19 (NLT), “’...I am no longer worthy of being called your son. Please take me on as a hired servant.’”
When the son “...was still a long way off, his father saw him coming. Filled with love and compassion, he ran to his son, embraced him, and kissed him” (Luke 15:20, NLT). Why did the father run? In Middle Eastern culture, an older man, especially the head of a wealthy family, would never run. If he did so, he would have to take up the long robe he wore and tie it above his knees, thus baring his legs and making him look shameful. Even today, men in the Middle East will not expose their legs in this way.
So again, why did the father run? I believe it was to protect his son from the Kezazah ceremony. He had to get to the son before the rest of the community did, so he could protect him from the broken pottery, shame, rejection, and statement that relations had been broken.
Verse twenty says the father was filled with love and compassion when he saw his son. The root word of compassion means ‘innards”. The father felt so deeply, it even registered in his intestines. He agonized at what had become of his son. But instead of being filled with anger, he was stirred with compassion.
In love, he took his son, probably still smelling of the pig pen, into his arms and embraced him. By doing so, he showed his son he had not rejected him and would heal his shame so he could return home.
The reason for the parable of the prodigal son is found at the beginning of Luke 15. “Tax collectors and other notorious sinners often came to listen to Jesus teach. This made the Pharisees and teachers of religious law complain that he was associating with such sinful people -even eating with them!” (Luke 15:1-2 NLT).
Jesus then told three parables about things that had been lost –the lost sheep, the lost coin, and finally, the lost son, and the rejoicing when the lost was found.
To me, the parable of the prodigal son is such a beautiful picture of God’s amazing grace and love for us. By nature, we rebelliously go our own way and make a mess of things, but if we turn to Him and repent, He will wrap His loving arms around us in all our filth, forgive us, and shower us with His love.
We can’t work our way into the Father’s good graces, as the prodigal son thought. Our only requirement is to truly repent.
Dear friend, if you’ve never received the bottomless, never failing love of God, receive it today. And if you’ve wandered away, turn around and come back. Either way, He will meet you with His arms outstretched, full of love and compassion.
Today, at this Christmas time, God says to us, “I find no fault in you. “I can already hear you saying, “How can that be? I constantly miss the mark. I get angry and say rude things when I’m frustrated or don’t like how other people think. I become impatient, especially with drivers who toddle along fifteen kilometers under the speed limit. Sometimes my thoughts are anything but loving toward others.”
If you are born again and have made Jesus your Saviour and Lord, the Father still says, “I find no fault in you.” Why? Because of Jesus. Through Him, we have been made the righteousness of God. “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21 NIV).
In the Old Testament, the High Priest could only enter the Holy of Holies, the place of God’s Presence, once per year on the Day of Atonement. On that day, he did not wear the colourful golden garments, but only white linen garments. When he first entered, he burned incense before the Ark of the Covenant, filling the room with smoke. Then he would exit.
When he returned, he entered the Holy of Holies with the blood of the sacrifice, which he sprinkled on the Ark seven times. The people could not enter the Holy of Holies. The High Priest represented all the people, making atonement through the blood of the sacrifice, first for his own sins, and then for the sins of the Israelites.
But now, because of the shed blood of Jesus, we can enter boldly into the very throne room of God and find help in our time of need. “Now that we know what we have – Jesus, this great High Priest with ready access to God...let’s walk right up to him and get what he is so ready to give. Take the mercy, accept the help” (Hebrews 4:14,16 MSG).
We can now stand before our Heavenly Father, without fear, without guilt or condemnation, and when we do miss the mark and get off course, we repent, receive His forgiveness, and get back on track. “...if we admit our sins—simply come clean about them—he won’t let us down; he’ll be true to himself. He’ll forgive our sins and purge us of all wrongdoing” (1 John 1:9 MSG).
Hear the words of the Father in Colossians 1:20-22 (NLT):
“...and through him God reconciled everything to himself. He made peace with everything in heaven and on earth by means of Christ’s blood on the cross.
This includes you who were once far away from God. You were his enemies, separated from him by your evil thoughts and actions. Yet now he has reconciled you to himself through the death of Christ in his physical body. As a result, he has brought you into his own presence, and you are holy and blameless as you stand before him without a single fault” (italics mine).
And in Ephesians 1:4 (NLT):
“Even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes” (italics mine).
Today, as you get ready for Christmas, take the time to look into the eyes of your Heavenly Father. Linger there. And hear him say, “I find no fault in you.” Come face to face with Love Himself.
In our weekly Sunday evening Bible study, we’re examining the book of Joshua. While looking at chapter nine, I learned something I didn’t know before which blessed me. I want to share it with you, hoping it blesses you too.
In Joshua 5:1 (NLT) it says, “When all the Amorite kings west of the Jordan and all the Canaanite kings who lived along the Mediterranean coast heard how the Lord had dried up the Jordan River so the people of Israel could cross, they lost heart and were paralyzed with fear because of them.”
During the conquest of the Promised Land, God had told His people in Deuteronomy 20 that when they approached a town to attack it, they must first offer the people terms for peace. If they accepted the terms of peace, they were to serve the Israelites with forced labour. If they refused the terms, the Israelites were to attack, killing every man, but keeping the women, children, livestock, and other plunder for themselves.
God told the Israelites the above instructions applied only to distant towns, “not to the towns of the nations in the land you will enter” (Deuteronomy 20:15 NLT).
In nearby towns, every living thing was to be destroyed. God’s reason for doing this was that it would “prevent the people of the land from teaching (the Israelites) to imitate their detestable customs in the worship of their gods, which would cause (the Israelites) to sin deeply against the Lord...” (Deuteronomy 20:18 NLT). “When the Lord your God hands these nations over to you and you conquer them, you must completely destroy them. Make no treaty with them and show them no mercy” (Deuteronomy 7:2 NLT).
The Gibeonites came up with a ruse so they wouldn’t be destroyed. “But when the people of Gibeon heard what Joshua had done to Jericho and Ai, they resorted to deception to save themselves” (Joshua 9:3-4 NLT).
They dressed in old clothing and sandals, brought moldy bread and wineskins, told the Israelites they had come from a long distance, and asked Israel to make a treaty with them and they would be Israel’s servants.
The truth was the Gibeonites did not live far away but nearby. A very sad verse is in Joshua 9:14: “So the Israelites examined their food, but they did not consult the Lord” (italics mine). Therefore, they made a treaty with the Gibeonites in spite of what God had told them.
Three days later Joshua learned they had been deceived. When he called together the Gibeonites he said, “Why did you lie to us? Why did you say that you live in a distant land when you live right here among us? May you be cursed. From now on you will always be servants who cut wood and carry water for the house of my God” (Joshua 9:22-23 NLT).
The Gibeonites had to work hard. The Israelites used a lot of wood and water. Just the daily offerings in the tabernacle required huge amounts for burning and cleaning up. The Gibeonites weren’t dead but they were cursed to be menial slaves.
However, our God is a merciful God. And this is the part that blessed me. Because the Gibeonites cut the wood and carried the water for the Lord’s service, they were brought close to the Lord. In Joshua 21:17 (NLT), it says, “From the tribe of Benjamin the priests were given the following towns with their pasturelands: Gibeon, Geba, Anathoth, and Almon...” Gibeon became a centre for training in the Word of God and worship.
Under King Solomon, before he built the first temple, the tabernacle was at Gibeon. “Then he (Solomon) led the entire assembly to the place of worship in Gibeon, for God’s Tabernacle was located there” (2 Chronicles 1:3 NLT).
When the Israelites returned from captivity in Babylon, the list of those who could prove Jewish heritage included the Gibeonites. Nehemiah 7:5,25 (NLT) says, “So my God gave me the idea to call together all the nobles and leaders of the city, along with the ordinary citizens, for registration... The family of Gibbar” (Gibeon).
And lastly, the Gibeonites helped to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem. “The Old City Gate was repaired by Joiada...and Meshullam... They laid the beams, set up its doors, and installed its bolts and bars. Next to them were Melatiah from Gibeon, Jadon from Meronoth, people from Gibeon... (Nehemiah 3:6-7 NLT, italics mine).
Thus is appears that God in His mercy allowed the Gibeonites to be absorbed into the covenant people. Like Rahab, who hid the spies, they transferred their allegiance from pagan gods to the true God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
This is an Old Testament example of God’s mercy and grace. In the New Testament, God’s mercy and grace has abounded to us in the death and resurrection of His Son, Jesus. “He saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit...” (Titus 3:5 ESV).
When we miss the mark, if we repent, He will forgive us (1 John 1:9). Today, whatever you’ve done, turn to your heavenly Father, repent, and receive His mercy and grace.
When I asked the Lord what I should write about for the blog, the word that came to my spirit was “voices”. H-m-m-m, what can I say about voices? This is what I believe the Holy Spirit brought to my mind.
Our voices are very important. We use our voice to get saved. Romans 10:9-10 says, “... if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.”
Salvation occurs in two places – in our hearts and in our mouths.
With our voices, “we destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ...” (2 Corinthians 10:5). With our words, we triumph over the enemy. “They triumphed over him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death” (Revelation 12:11 NIV).
We defend the Gospel with our voices. “But in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame” (1 Peter 3:15-16 ESV). “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek” (Romans 1:16 ESV).
Our voices bring deliverance. “For if you remain completely silent at this time, relief and deliverance will arise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father’s house will perish. Yet who knows whether you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” (Esther 4:14 NKJV). Esther took her life into her hands, spoke up for her people the Jews, and God delivered them.
When we use our voices to speak the truth in love, we grow up in Jesus. "Instead, we will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church” (Ephesians 4:15 NLT).
With our voices, we praise the Lord. “So I will not be silent; I will sing praise to you. LORD, you are my God, I will give you thanks forever” (Psalm 30:12 GNB). Praise removes chains and opens doors. “About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them. Suddenly there was such a violent earthquake that the foundations of the prison were shaken. At once all the prison doors flew open, and everyone’s chains came loose” (Acts 16:25-26 NIV).
We can use our voices to defend the rights of the downtrodden. “Open your mouth for the mute, for the rights of all who are destitute. Open your mouth, judge righteously, defend the rights of the poor and needy” (Proverbs 31:8-9 ESV).
May the Lord help us to examine ourselves to discern how we use our voices. Do we use what we say to tear down or to build up? “Be gracious in your speech. The goal is to bring out the best in others in a conversation, not put them down, not cut them out” (Colossians 4:6) MSG). We need to remember, with our voices we can kill or give life. “Words kill, words give life; they’re either poison or fruit—you choose” (Proverbs 18:21 MSG).
In closing, Psalm 119:130 NKJV says, “The entrance of Your words gives light; It gives understanding to the simple”. When we use our voices to speak God’s Word, we bring light to the world.
As humans, we are made in the image of God. We are a three part being. The essence of who we are is our spirit. It is with our spirit that we connect with God. We have a soul, made up of our mind, emotions, and will, and we live in a body, our earth suit.
Before we are born again, our spirits are in a dead state toward God and alive to sin. Ephesians 2: 4-5 says, “But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved)...”
When we accept Christ as our Saviour, the old sinful nature is crucified and buried into death with Christ. “For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin—” (Romans 6:6 NIV). Colossians 3:3 says, “For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God (NKJV).
Now, as born-again believers, our spirit is alive to God. “Likewise you also, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:11, NKJV). When we put our faith in Jesus, our born-again spirit is recreated in the righteousness of Jesus, holy, with the very nature of our Saviour.
God made Jesus to be sin in our place so we can receive His righteousness as a free gift. 2 Corinthians 5:21 says, “For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (NKJV). This reborn spirit in us does not change – it has been made righteous forever. This is amazing news!
The soul consists of the mind, emotions, and will. When we are born-again, this part of us does not change instantly. It still carries with it the old thought patterns and habits we had before we accepted Christ. It is the part that is constantly being made holy. “For by the one offering He has perfected forever and completely cleansed those who are being sanctified [bringing each believer to spiritual completion and maturity]” (Hebrews 10:14 AMP).
The soul is the part we spend a lifetime renewing. “Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect” (Romans 12:2 NLT).
This requires setting our minds on things above. “Set your mind and keep focused habitually on the things above [the heavenly things], not on things that are on the earth [which have only temporal value]” (Colossians 3:2 AMP). As we do this, we will starve our old sinful patterns of thought and bring our minds into agreement with our reborn spirits.
Through the death and resurrection of Jesus, He purchased us and when we are born-again, our bodies become a temple of God. “Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s (1 Corinthians 6:19-20, NKJV).
As born-again believers, we are to give our bodies to righteousness rather than to sin. “Just as you used to offer the parts of your body in slavery to impurity and to ever-increasing wickedness, so now offer them in slavery to righteousness leading to holiness.” (Romans 6:19, NKJV).
God’s Word tells us to put to death the misdeeds of our body through the power of the Holy Spirit. “For if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live” (Romans 8:13).
WITHOUT FOOD, WE DIE
Just as we need physical food in order to survive, we need spiritual food to grow spiritually. The Word of God is our spiritual food. If we don’t meditate on it day and night, we lose our spiritual strength. That’s why Satan works so hard to keep us out of God’s Word. He wants weak, anemic Christians. His desire is for Christians to feed their minds with the things of the world, and their bodies with the lusts of the flesh.
To overcome the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life (1 John 2:16), we need to do what God told Joshua before he led the Israelites into the Promised Land to conquer it. “This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall read [and meditate on] it day and night, so that you may be careful to do [everything] in accordance with all that is written in it; for then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will be successful” (Joshua 1:8 AMP).
The Apostle Paul tells us to, “...walk habitually in the [Holy] Spirit [seek Him and be responsive to His guidance], and then you will certainly not carry out the desire of the sinful nature [which responds impulsively without regard for God and His precepts]” (Galatians 5:16, AMP).
We are to live our lives from the inside out, not the outside in. As we feed our re-born spirits with the Word of God, our bodies and souls will walk more and more in line with our spirit and we will become committed to the righteous purposes of God. I want that, don’t you?
Someone recently sent me an “in Christ” ID Card. It had my name on it and stated that I have been identified in Christ’s death, resurrection and victory, with the privilege of receiving every benefit provided in Jesus Christ.
That got me thinking. What are the benefits of being a Christian? When we interview for a new job, we like to know what benefits we’ll receive. Is there vision and dental coverage, prescription and pharmacy benefits, specialist services, mental health coverage?
Today, I would like to look at five benefits of being a Christian. There are many, many more , but I have chosen these five in the interest of brevity.
1. We are washed clean by the blood of Jesus. “From John...and from Jesus Christ the Faithful witness, the Firstborn from among the dead...(who) has loosed us from our sins by his own blood, and...has appointed us as a kingdom of priests...” (Revelation 1:4-6 TPT).
Through Jesus, our sins are forgiven, and we have freedom from the power of sin. “
2. We are clothed in the righteousness of Christ. "...the Anointed One, who had never experienced sin, became sin for us so that in Him we might embody the very righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21 VOICE).
Think about that. When God looks at you, He doesn’t see someone dressed in rags. He sees someone clothed in the very righteousness of His Son, Jesus. Take off those old rags, and put on the righteousness Jesus died and rose again to give us.
3. We are sealed by the Holy Spirit. “And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God [do not offend or vex or sadden Him], by Whom you were sealed (marked, branded as God’s own, secured) for the day of redemption (of final deliverance through Christ from evil and the consequences of sin)” (Ephesians 4:30 AMPC).
In Paul’s day, the sealing he refers to was an official mark of identification placed on a letter, contract, or other document of importance. Usually made from hot wax, the seal was placed on the document and impressed with a signet ring. This identified the document as being under the authority of the person who owned the signet ring. God has sealed us with the Holy Spirit that we are His own, beloved children.
4. We are taught and directed by the Holy Spirit. We are not rudderless. “However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come” (John 16:13 NKJV).
As you can see from the NKJV quoted above, some English translations say the Holy Spirit will guide us into “all truth”. However, the Greek New Testament includes the definite article - the Holy Spirit will guide us into all the truth.
Truth today is relative. But Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life (John 14:6). When we listen to and obey the Holy Spirit living inside us, then we know real truth.
5. We have the hope of eternal life. “And I give them eternal life, and they shall never lose it or perish throughout the ages. [To all eternity they shall never by any means be destroyed.] And no one is able to snatch them out of My hand (John 10:28 AMPC).
Not only do we have the hope of eternal life, but through Jesus, we have victory here on earth. “But thanks be to God, Who in Christ always leads us in triumph [as trophies of Christ’s victory] and through us spreads and makes evident the fragrance of the knowledge of God everywhere...” (2 Corinthians 2:14 AMPC). It doesn’t say that sometimes or maybe He will lead us in triumph. It says always.
In conclusion, Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 15:58 (EXB), “So my dear [beloved] brothers and sisters, stand strong. Do not let anything move you.” As we stand firm and immovable, our feet stuck in the cement of God’s Word and His promises, we will be victorious. Praise the Lord for His amazing benefits.
In this Blog, I want to share with you some of the things I've learned from many years of following Jesus.